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Sunday, 26 November 2017

One Door Closes; One Door Opens (Hentak Kaki)

I'm in the Facebook group for returned overseas Singaporeans, and was pleasantly intrigued when our local actor Michael Chua shared a short film that he acted in during 2012 that's directed by James Khoo.

Not long, around 12 minutes.

For your viewing pleasure this cool lazy Sunday:

Life is not a straight line extrapolation.

Sometimes things will go bump despite the best of our plans and goal settings...

When we look back to yesterday, we often wish we can turn back time and do things differently. I know, wish you had not married him or her... That's about as practical as a one-legged stool.

And as we look ahead in our little fantasies to escape today, we often tell ourselves we will do this and that tomorrow... See? I have a plan! And a goal too! Well, that's still only as practical as a 2 legged stool.

Who we are today are the sum of the decisions and non-decisions we have or have not made yesterday.

Who we will be tomorrow? What do you think?

Still want to do the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

When one door closes, whether we can find another door that opens... Well, I think you get the idea.


  1. What if the door opens to Hell? Too late to regret.

    1. CW,

      Imagine your relative who had lost his life savings and chopped fingers "investing" in equities say what you just said above to you?

      Just when you have made the mind flip DECISION not to rely solely on your corporate career for your retirement future since due to your illness, you are "condemned" too like in the short movie... Ain't no more promotions coming your way...

      Life is not a straight line extrapolation.

      If you had lost your savings "investing", you now would tell everyone who jio you for coffee - don't take risks; just do voluntary contributions to CPF can already! Investing is gambling!

      Now that you are a survivorship bias case, you'll say the opposite! Why lockup your funds for peanuts when an opportunity comes, we can get 10 baggers instead!

      Anyway, majority of people just set goals (daydream), plan in 2 decimal places precision (excuse to delay action), and then throw everything into the waste bin since they now "undecided" or "confused what they really want", and have to start all over again...

      No action; talk only.

  2. When the befallen mobile phone giant Nokia was acquired by Microsoft in 2015, Nokia CEO famously ended his speech by saying: "We didn't do anything wrong, but somehow we lost."

    Too many of us like expending our energy on ensuring we do things right without mistakes, while we neglect doing the 'Right' things, which lies in the importance of seizing opportunities at the right moments.

    Kodak did not do anything wrong; it just underestimated the rise of digital cameras. Nokia did not do anything wrong; it just did not go along with the rising waves of smartphone craze. If we really take a good look at our own lives, can we confidently say to ourselves that we are not repeating these eventful episodes in some ways? 

    1. thoughtinstrument,

      Ah! We are on the same page when it comes to:

      Do The Right Thing vs Doing Things Right

      I am so glad you have dropped by to say hello!

      I am very intrigued by your blog ;)

      I think I'll spend the next several days to get to know your thoughts and philosophy better.

      Please be patient if I send some clarifications pokes your way. I practice Trust but Verify ;)

      I'm like the supermarket aunties who poke the fruits and fishes to see if they were fresh or not?


      P.S. Finally! Another cheerleader for independent thinking!

  3. Smol,

    I had a lot of mixed feelings watching this video.

    1) I knew of someone who had an accident during the sky diving. The army kept him as a specialist mess manager after he is wheel-chaired bounded. I thought that is quite compassionate instead of “army play u out” as depicted by the video.

    2) the second part that affect me is the part of “former glory”, not able to accepted the new norm. I knew that day will come to me “sooner or later”. I wondered aloud should I just eat humble pie and just “make a living”, or “do something else” that is more appealing.

    I guess it depends on the circumstances there and then when the moment of “choice” comes.

    But guess there is no right or wrong, just the right or wrong feelings.

    Personally, if I chose to “stay with army” for five “dou” of rice, so be it. I tame my ego and continue to do whatever I can to the best ability even if it might not be good enough

    I have always dream of starting my own center. I already knew it will always be a “day dream”, so I shall not talk too much about passion. I am a man-whore, just that u retired from jianghu, but u think I have to survive as long as u can.

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      You've said a lot on feelings.

      If you had lost your voice in an illness, and MOE has "compassionately" transferred you to do admin work since they "deem" you are not "qualified" to be a teacher now...

      If I didn't read your character wrongly, I believe you would not want to be treated as a "charity" case...

      You would pick yourself up by learning sign language and get back to teaching again ;)

      If public schools close their doors on you, you will knock on doors at special needs school.

      I wonder are there private tutors out there who do tutoring in sign language to students with special needs?


      If you want to teach, no one can stop you!

      Not even fate!

    2. Hi SI and SMOL,

      If we end up being 'charity' case, we should indeed eat humble pie if we need to 为五斗米而折腰. That's why must 未雨绸缪. :)

      I choose not to pander to my ego to rise through the ranks and sacrifice all my time. If we manage ourselves like a business, we must have a clear focus on which business units we must grow in order to cultivate our own 'stars' and 'cash cows' (BCG growth-share matrix).

      Knowing that we are flogging a dead horse and still refuse to disembark (Cantonese saying: 马死落地行), we only have ourselves to blame. But the problem is, many do not even realise the proverbial horse is dead or dying.

      How to know then?

      Instead of setting goals, get down to analyse our 'business' the way we would our investments. If we don't even know the ROI and ROE of ourselves and measuring not only in monetary terms, getting ourselves stuck in a rut is only a matter of time. Not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. ;)

    3. Endrene,

      I'm envious of youth who knew what they want to do in life at an early age. They are dreamers or visionaries.

      Those who set goals in money are those who have no clue what they want to do in life.

      Its just a stop gap measure since anyone can pluck a figure out of thin air (or copy others); the excuse is let me be financially free first then I'll figure out where to lean my ladder against which wall...

      Huh!? LOL!

      I had to bump around for ages until I found "stability" at age 30 when I stumbled into IKEA - they welcomed my "difference" as an asset as part of their "diversity" culture. Who knew?

      Talk abut pure dumb luck! But then, some would argue lady luck wouldn't have found me if I hadn't job-hopped... Contrast it with:

      The nail don't hurt enough yet...

      Then something sort of clicked when I hit my late 30s. Confucius was right. At around 40, I am no longer "confused".

      Once we are clear who we are, why we get up in the morning, who matters most in our lives, decision making becomes a lot easier ;)

      That period up to age 40 was my eating humble pie or "prostitute" phase. Earn more money was the priority. Not much different from youths who seek financial freedom to "escape". It takes one to know one ;)

      Life is ironic.

      When I wore a mask, I acted like a "prostitute" although I prided myself as a "professional"...

      Now that I've taken down my mask and have no problem calling myself a man-whore, I've become a man of leisure :)

    4. LOL! Tell me about it.

      I blatantly claim that '我就是出来卖的'. No shame about it. I didn't get into the job to find my passion. I know where my passion is. I'm in the job to monetise my skills.

      I told my boss that I'm merely selling my time and expertise at a price that I deem acceptable. No need to tell me that giving me a lot more work is for developing me. I take charge of developing myself in whatever areas that I want. Just show me the money. And if I get persecuted for not being compliant and 逆来顺受, I'll vote with my feet. I won't want to end up in the pile where tragedy of the commons lie. LOL.

      I can't agree more about the 'stop gap measure' of some of the people seeking financial freedom but not limited to the youths! In the corporate world, it is same 'dream' and indoctrination about 'climbing up'. These are the same people who will ask, 'how to get there huh?'. They will complain that the system is not transparent and they should have 'developmental opportunities'.

      Many would also lament that they 怀才不遇. Chances are, they really don't have much 才 for others to 遇. If they really are so good, they should have no problem finding their 伯乐. In the digital age, it will be the 伯乐 looking up for them!

      I came across this very enlightening video which explains why many people think they are damn capable when they actually have nothing much worth to shout about.


    5. Endrene,

      We are cat people; fiercely independent and do not succumb to Jedi mind tricks easily ;)

      We may pretend to be shepherds or sheep dogs just to gain access to land owners (伯乐).

      Once we have "stolen" enough with pride, off we go to secure our own little fiefdoms! Now that's personal development!

      Except I ended up as a Ronin...


    6. Huh why must we PRETEND to be shepherds or sheep dogs? Most of the time we ARE the shepherds or sheep dogs (if not the sheep) right?

    7. Rainbow girl,

      I only "play" the role of a shepherd or sheep dog when my wings were not fully formed ;)


      In case you were wondering... A cat with wings is called a Sphinx ;)

  4. This is about working for Ah Kong(iron rice bowl)?

    In the private sector, i think there is no charity to consider or political price to pay.

    He would have Hobson's choice then.

    It's the same as why many people are hawkers or entrepreneurs in the first place.

    When U have choices, life is much more complicated isn't it?

    i wish i have no choice during my younger days.

    1. temperament,

      In some private Chinese family-owned businesses, they do take care of the older workers who are no longer contributing and well past their expiry dates...

      Especially when the founder is still alive.


      Western educated management only sees KPIs and bottom line.

      Chinese educated management are more holistic with focus on people relationships.

      You speak a truth only a few can appreciate or dare admit ;)

      The more options we have, the more we will choose the "safe" route.

      I do share the same reflection as you. I see we both share the same dragon DNA from our ancestral roots ;)

      We have done quite well for ITE and O'levels.

      But if only we hadn't done so well working for others... If only more doors were slammed in our faces...

      We would be land owners now ;)

      You often talk about legacy... That's the true legacy to gift to our next generation - 江山!

  5. The Hentak Kaki guy in the video is a lucky Singaporean who works in the civil service. The SAF has the resources to deploy him elsewhere even though he is no longer of use to the army (his own exact words). For the 70% of Singaporeans who work in SMEs, they will surely lose their job if they are no longer of use. It takes money to be kind and most SMEs cannot afford to be kind. As Temperament just said, life is easier for the SME "losers" who have zero choices. Easier to take action since bo-pian. No need to think so much. Got to take action to survive.

    Did Hentak Kaki guy make the right decision? Hard to say for him personally. If hentak kaki stuck at high salary compared to outside but with much lesser work load, why not? Chao-keng soldiers will actually be very happy. Wah got injury, can chao keng liao. If he goes to private sector, more work more stress but lesser pay and higher risk of losing job. No need to think. Jiak Ah Gong gao gao. Fortunately for taxpayers, Hentak Kaki guy is a man of pride and ambition. He pursued his dream and probably became a happier and more useful person even if he earned lesser and work longer hours as a result.

    For business owners, would they even allow this Hentak Kaki HR policy? If the worker is relatively young, the merciful thing would be to retrench him and pay him fair compensation. Merciful because it will be better for this worker in the long run to find another job that fits him better while he is still young so as to gain self-respect. Hentak kaki HR policies dampens morale to other staff who work more but are paid lesser because they are more junior. The bonus pool for the more productive staff is smaller because of the Hentak kaki guys. I doubt shareholders will approve of paying Hentak Kaki staff who are guaranteed to be unmotivated and yet, irrelevant to the organization. For loyal, older workers who will be screwed if they lose their jobs, it is a good business decision to show kindness to demonstrate to the younger workers this is a good company worth staying in the long-term.

    1. hyom hyom,

      1. Let's just say how Generals treat the wounded and deserters during combat in war will influence the level of morale in the Army.

      All that's said and done, I rather be the one making the decision than the "one" others are making their decision on...

      2. A gilded cage or handcuff is still a restraint. The opposite spectrum of "hentak kaki" is being well rewarded for a job/career that no longer fulfills you - intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

      You would understand ;)

      3. Two groups of people I tend to take notice of when it comes to working for themselves due to "no choice":

      Those with less or no paper qualifications, and those who were Chinese educated.

      A nano version of Jack Ma? For crying out loud! Even KFC doesn't want Jack Ma!? LOL! Now look what he has accomplished?

      4. Alas it was not meant to be... If only I didn't earn more than mediocre graduates... If only I wasn't so spoilt with choices...

      But then, lucky I practice "crash got sound"!

      Happy stay; not happy quit.

      At least I got my logic right. The company I stayed the longest with is the one I'm happiest with :)

    2. Ha! Ha!


      No lah it's just natural.

    3. temperament,


      I'll never take anyone seriously if he complains about his company day and night, and yet when I asked how long he's been there...

      30 years!?

      30 years!!!!????

      It would be funny if it wasn't so sad at the same time :(

  6. Someone has started a "Hentak Kaki Fan Club" group on Facebook. I am delighted that it still generates interest after all these (seven) years.

    Do join the Group if you have enjoyed the film.


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